Daily Dojo

When I heard the learn’d astronomer, 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, 
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, 
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Today we have a poem by Walt Whitman:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


Walt Whitman

Whitman did not stir up any controversy last time, so I thought we would look at more of his poetry.

There is a lot I could say about this one, but I will take Whitman’s advice and leave you to look at the stars on your own.

Daily Dojo

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Today we have a very short poem by Robert Frost that, in typical Frost fashion, condenses deep truth into something that would fit on a greeting card or a refrigerator magnet. Robert Frost was brilliant that way.

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.


Robert Frost

Now the big question: how can we apply this to our study of music? Do our suppositions and banjo forum games of dancing around in circles blind us to the answers right in front of us? Is the secret so many students waste hours, days, weeks, years, decades and beyond just sitting in the open? Hiding in plain sight?

Daily Dojo

Yesterday is done. Tomorrow never comes. Today is here. If you don’t know what to do, sit still and listen. You may hear something. Nobody knows. 
We may pull apart the petals of a rose or make chemical analysis of its perfume, but the mystic beauty of its form and odor is still a secret, locked in to where we have no keys.

Today we have a quote from Carl Sandburg:

Yesterday is done. Tomorrow never comes. Today is here. If you don’t know what to do, sit still and listen. You may hear something. Nobody knows.
We may pull apart the petals of a rose or make chemical analysis of its perfume, but the mystic beauty of its form and odor is still a secret, locked in to where we have no keys.

Carl Sandburg:

True story: I once found a massive tome containing the complete works of Carl Sandburg at a library book sale for less than a dollar. I was thrilled! Literally drunk on beautiful words. Then the idea of a library devoid of Carl Sandburg made me so sad, I sneaked in and stealthily put the book back on the shelves for some other pilgrim to discover.

Daily Dojo

One may explain water, but the mouth will not become wet. One may expound fully on the nature of fire, but the mouth will not become hot.

Today we have a quote from Takuan Sōhō:

One may explain water, but the mouth will not become wet. One may expound fully on the nature of fire, but the mouth will not become hot.


Takuan Sōhō

What is is Takuan trying to say here? Is talking about water the same as drinking water? Can we understand the heat of fire without actually warming our hands? How could we apply this thinking to our training in music?

Perhaps practicing slowly at home is not the same as diving into a jam session?

In Outrage We Trust

I refrain from talking about politics in works, so I was perplexed reading this comment on today’s Daily Dojo:

Walt Whitman was a marxist and antithetical to american norms and virtues. Love your musical musings and videos, but please lose the political tangent you seem to embrace.

A pissed off Internet twit

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is one of those books that was so new, so different, so brilliant on its publication that it continues to resonate with people and scare the hell out of shallow and stupid people.

Antithetical to american norms and virtues? Really?

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing

Poetry, and art in general can act as a sort of Rorschach test in that the reader will see the bugbears or angels of their psyche reflected in the words. If you see gay marxists in my work I would be willing to bet you see them in your cornflakes or the wood grain of your desk.

Part of this nonsense stems from the fact that America has become a land where everybody is outraged over something stupid.

“This person said something I don’t like. I am outraged!”

“Well I am outraged that you are outraged!”

“Oh yeah? Well I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage!”

“I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage over your outrage!”

“I see your outrage, outrage, outrage, outrage and raise you even more outrage!”

“This is outrageous! I am outraged!”

“Wait. . . what are we outraged over? I lost track.”

“I am outraged that you forgot the cause of this outrage!”

“Really? Well, I’m going to be on The View talking about how outraged I am! Jim Carrey is going to do a painting and everything!”

“Oh, big deal! Fox News is going to have me on talking about how your outrage is destroying America!”

Any topic on any given day

It’s like a critical mass of lunacy. Who’s On First circa 2019. Everybody is pissed off about something, acting as if being outraged – or simply disagreeing with something – is a mortal wound.

I keep politics and religion out of my work. If you see a tangent other than my usual, “Love the world and share!” my advice would be to find yourself another music teacher.

Daily Dojo

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men—go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Today’s quote comes from Walt Whitman‘s 1855 preface to Leaves of Grass.

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men—go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Walt Whitman

The entire preface is worth reading, as is the entire body of Whitman’s work.